Zlatan Ibrahimovic has backed Andres Iniesta to win the FIFA Ballon d'Or next month, despite telling TV channel beIN Sport that Lionel Messi "is the best in the world".
After his record-breaking goalscoring feats in 2012, Messi is favourite to pick up the award for an unprecedented fourth successive year ahead of fellow Barcelona star Iniesta and Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo, who comprise the three-man shortlist.
However, Ibrahimovic - who, as Sweden captain, gets to vote for the award along with national team coaches and a select panel of journalists - hopes Spain star Iniesta will take home the prize at the Zurich ceremony on 7 January.
"I voted for Iniesta, because he won Euro 2012 and has done incredible work at Barcelona," the Paris Saint-Germain forward said. "Messi doesn't do it all alone. He has extraordinary players around him who provide the final ball, among them Iniesta. I really hope that he'll get it this year, because Messi is young and can still win it again many times."
Ibrahimovic, who was one of the initial 23 nominees for world football's top individual honour, is renowned for his monumental self-belief, but the 31-year-old acknowledged he had more than met his match in former Barcelona team-mate Messi.
"Individually, Messi is the best in the world," Ibrahimovic said. "He plays like he's on the PlayStation - it's incredible. Having said that, Iniesta won Euro 2012, Cristiano Ronaldo won the league. Is that enough? I don't know. They say you have to win the Champions League to win the Ballon d'Or, but those who won it are not even nominated."